Cars are banned from the Champs-Elysees the first Sunday of every month in Paris. (Photo: Thomas Samson)

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The One Day People Replace Cars on the Champs-Elysees in Paris

The Champs-Elysees in Paris may be one of the busiest roads in the world, but for one day a month, it’s taken over by pedestrians.

After a successful experiment in 2015, Paris approved plans to make the Champs-Elysees a no-car zone during the first Sunday of every month, beginning in May.

Not surprisingly, thousands of Parisians and tourists flocked to the street known for its rows of stores, parks and views of the Arc de Triomphe on the 1.2-mile avenue.

Meant to reduce air pollution in the city as part of a Paris Breathes campaign, the move by Mayor Anne Hidalgo has essentially created a new kind of urban park for the Paris. Without the crush of cars that normally crawls up the boulevard, locals and visitors now have a new way to spend the day—especially during the warm summer months when throngs of people head outdoors to enjoy the sun.

The Champs-Elysees typically attracts around 300,000 people per day.

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Naturally, retailers won’t object with the steady flow of potential shoppers: Stores on the Champs-Élysées tend to stay open longer, given the amount of heavy traffic. And the novelty of being able to jaywalk with abandon could encourage more visitors to open their wallets. It also reinvents the idea of a sidewalk cafe when the whole street is a cafe.

For Paris’ mayor, however, a more pedestrian-friendly Champs-Elysees is more about changing habits, “our attitude and chose mobility,” she says. “Pollution kills people every year, especially because of particles. It is our ambition. It is our plan to make the city more environmental-friendly.”